Transfer Students

Joshua Spisak

Head's up, this has not been updated in a while!

The goal of this article is to give transfer students (or those considering starting at a commmunity college before transfering to Pitt) and idea of the challenges they might face. This will be mostly angled towards those who are set on Pitt CS (although some of the advice is applicable to all transfer students), if you are considering the Pitt CS program I'd recommend you read the guide for incoming freshmen, specifically the "Why Pitt CS" section.

My Story

Before I start giving advice on things it's best I share about the path I took to eventually graduate from Pitt CS. When I first graduated from High School I knew I wanted a CS degree but was uncertain where I wanted it from. So I started at community college. There I enrolled in an Associates degree program and took general education requirements that would be likely to transfer to any four year college. After two years I earned my Associates in Software Development and knew I wanted to go to Pitt. I took a closer look at their requirements and realized there were some classes I was missing that I could take at CCAC. So I looked at those requirements, looked at degrees I was interested in at CCAC and also completed an Associates in Math and Science. I then transferred to Pitt. I was in Dietrich for a semester before transferring into the CS program at SCI. After three more semesters of classes I was able to graduate.

Challenges

Degree requirements:

  • At CCAC the degree requirements were very clear cut and easy to understand, I was able to enroll in classes on my own without speaking to an advisor and was confident I was taking the most efficient path to my goals.
  • At Pitt the degree requirements are more complex. Before I was actually enrolled in the CS program, it was impossible to know what my requirements were actually going to be. This is because of a few things:

    • The CS requirements change yearly, the requirements you actually need to fill are the ones active when you are accepted into the CS program.
    • I transferred during a particularly bad time when the CS program was changing from the Dietrich School of Art's and Sciences to a new School of Computing and Information. There was a lot of more in flux than there usually is.
    • Since I was not yet at Pitt it was hard for me to get time with CS advisors who knew best what the program would actually look like when I enroll. Often these conversations simply went: "here are the current requirements, but we have no clue what they will be when you actually enroll".

    Fortunately the program should not be in such a state of flux when the people reading this are looking to enroll, but you should be aware that the requirements for you are not set until you are actually in the program. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is make sure you talk to someone from SCI and get the current requirements both before you transfer and then once you are at Pitt.

The role of the advisor:

  • At CCAC, since the program I needed to follow was clear the only required interaction with an advisor was to apply for graduation. I was able to enroll in classes by myself with high confidence that I was taking an efficient path.
  • At Pitt my advisor was needed more and was also in contact more. Every semester you are required to speak to your advisor before registering for classes. Your advisor is also a great person to contact if you are confused about degree requirements and what's the best path to graduate.

Credit Transferring:

Pitt has a limit on the number of credits you can transfer in, so if you took more than that limit at your previous institution then some of your classes won't be transferred in. As a result once you actually get enrolled in the CS program with SCI you might realized the classes that Pitt transferred for you aren't the best classes to fulfill the CS requirements, and switching what transfers in helps out. Don't stress, talk to your advisor. They will help you fill out a form and change what classes you have transferred.

How are You Different from a Pitt Freshman?

When you first come to Pitt you will be probably feel like a freshman for a while, especially if you still have a few lower level classes to complete. Much of the advice for incoming freshman will apply to you as well. What differs is the fact that you are bringing a few years of academic experience with you and you probably won't be spending as much at Pitt as they are. This has a few implications.

  • You probably want to graduate in two years. This means you don't have as much time to build networks and get involved. My advice is to not be shy, there are lots of opportunities if you dive right in!

    This also means that to achieve this you might need to take summer classes or overload semesters. I had to do a little of both to graduate in two years. My advice on that is to just make sure you are prioritizing and planning well. Prioritize a good internship over taking summer classes (if it comes down to one or the other). Make sure you don't overload yourself, if you think you might fail a class due to overload and have to retake it anyway it's better not to take that many classes in the first place. In summary don't be afraid to take an extra semester if it means a better resume and a better experience. But on the other hand, if you try you can definitely make it.

Hopefully this helped, if anyone has any questions about my experience or just wants to ask more questions about what to expect at pitt feel free to email me at jjs231@pitt.edu.

Last updated: Jul 15th 2020